1964-11-29 - Project Virgo: Second Star to the Right
Summary: Bucky Barnes in a dangerous train heist.
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bucky rogue 

.~{:----------: features=+views :-:}~.

0341 hours. Friedrichstrasse. Berlin Border.

They don't know what to make of the mayhem, the revelations in forms of broken children and bloodshot eyes, gashes, rising bruises. They think so much of the soldiers pointing firearms at one another, a microcosm of the stand-off between the USSR and the US.

He has moments to make his departure. They dreaded him on both sides, thanks to Department X. Those inside the Warsaw Pact nations still wonder whether the ghost emerging from the dark will seal a fate of their own making. Allied powers called by other names, now, remember the heroes of the War and then the deaths strung out in bathtubs, bedrooms, parking garages, roads. He was Captain America's partner, a Howling Commando. He was Captain America's murderer, a haunting Commie. And now, now they just don't know.

But he's got a timetable. Twenty minutes, probably less, to hit the rail line. Assuming it's not already disrupted.

Sometimes he himself doesn't know, for all his stated firmness of purpose. He could forget. He could let himself be taken and erased….save for knowing what would happen to himself and those he leaves behind. Maybe he could've asked for a desk job, with SHIELD.

Yeah, right.

So off he goes, stealing a motor bike to cover the distance faster, bent low over the handlebars.

Motorcycles on the east side aren't nearly so good as the west. They serve their purpose, though. Engine and tires that spin faster than any man runs, even one so prodigiously gifted as the former Soviet super-soldier. He'll be cutting it close for the alerted forces are out in numbers to fan along the Wall and await further orders. Two decades ago, between periods of cryostasis and work, they surrounded the city to make a point to the west. The West made an airlift to make a point back.

Now, it's another story. Alerts call men to attention. Getting into the side streets is smarter than not, ripping a route down stumping stairs as he gets the lay of the land. Southwest, the borough hard up against the wall, and into a factory he already disrupted several times over. The incapacitated patrol by now has been found. Others take their place. There's the matter of a train line.

Now he's not herding drugged little goslings like some weird version of the fairy tale about the goosegirl. Now it's just him again, and the fleetness of the wheels under him, though he ditches it long before he can alert those guards. Surely they won't be looking for him to double-back to it….one hopes. Now it's a matter of finding the train and getting aboard.

Better than being the little matchgirl, wouldn't you agree? The odds are a bit lower for her surviving by dawn.

The motorcycle skitters away and the factory — the Industriewerks, one of the thirty some-odd around the city and its wider environs swallowing East German workers whole. Lights flood the main buildings, the signs of activity beyond what he interrupted what must feel like weeks ago. Doors lie open. Workers stand there, being questioned. The Stasi have their ugly little striped white cars rolled up and someone is already escorting a body — or an unconscious guard, really — off into an ambulance. Tension fills the air. It's nothing new. Infiltration can come any number of ways, a rooftop run, over barbed wire, or trying to skulk up to the rail line. A short stub, it curves through the loading bays at the pharmaceutical AG and links up with the U6, though whether the train can even get through after the madness at Checkpoint Charlie is another matter.

The roof it is. Human instincts are those of creatures of the wide plain….and we so rarely look up. So up he scrambles, some part of him relishing it despite the pain and the weariness. He's patched up, he'll hold for a while. He has to. Scuttling along so he doesn't outline himself against the dim glow of a city at night.

Instincts don't teach one to look up when eagles and giant birds capable of flying off with adults vanished from the world, for the most part, at the end of the last ice age. These buildings are low-slung, uniform to Soviet brutalism. Tin cladding makes noise, no way around it. The shingled rooftop is rough and filled by remnants of bird shit, passing seasons, and more occasional strings of barbed wire — probably electrified — to prohibit passage. It's not especially daunting for Bucky. Rather more troubling are the panels that creak and moan, betraying footfalls in a dubious symphony. No train is loaded up there. Not surprising, he didn't see one earlier, only the rails.

Wait. Proceed along the tracks. There are choices.

No time to wait. Along the tracks is the next path. If there's no train waiting for him to drop down like an immense spider….he'll have to creep off that way.

See, there's a funny thing about the trains strung along those ghost stations all around Berlin, relics of a bygone age of unity when they smiled at men like Hindenburg and missed good old Willy, kaiser over all. The western trains thunder through, north to south, bypassing the places where they keep nice little plaques in Gothic German font. Come, go. He never was correct, Coulson, about how regular the trains are. They do not run like clockwork, not at night, not really ever. But the southbound U6 shuttling through sometimes resembles the same old boxy construct on wheels. And osmetimes it does not. Sometimes there are trains meant for long hauls across the plains and into the great, flat steppes of western Russia and Poland.

It won't be slow, that train. Not racing up the tracks for a date with a destiny coming. Maybe a stop of five minutes. Germans excel at punctuality when they want to… and loading children into cattle cars. Things don't change in twenty years. He can wait hidden in the shadows for the doors to open on a forgettable, boxy carriage among many snaking through the open air of a midnight sky. Or he can run the damn thing down before it even reaches the industriewerks, where presumably the handlers are awaiting their children. His choice.

Again, the latter….no time like the present. Might be worth catching the top - they'll be looking to see what happens, when the promised cargo isn't there. Assuming this isn't the last stop on a much, much longer run. The Germans really can't resist disposing of the unwanted that way. There's a kind of bitter reminiscence there, considering.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 13

Factors dance in front of those seasoned eyes. Learn a thing or two from the Western Front, the lessons never really leave.

One, the train can be chased from the side as it slows to a comparatively leisurely twenty-five miles an hour. Far too high to take a spur to the industrial park. It would jump the rails, smash through a building, damage countless machines in the process. Take it at an angle, jump, he'll soon eonugh be clutching a rickety handhold on the short access ladder on the side of a car. And there are quite a number of cars, eight all said. He hits the third this way.

Two, a point where a train won't slow down but barrels through.

0352 hours.

It breezes right past the turnoff the factories. Next stop, the tunnels of the ghost stations. Beyond? East Berlin. East Germany. Hinterlands of the Rodina, the great motherland, calling her children home.

He's got hold of the ladder, though it makes the wound in his chest light up with pain. Scrambles up to the roof, throws himself flat, the better not to be seen. Not exactly a rest, but …a respite, as he tries to quiet his breathing.

The speed applied by the engineer leaves streaming tendrils of air flowing over Bucky. A headwind is a hell of a thing to grapple with. Wheels screech. Darkness ripples in a drawn veil over them, covering the length of that cargo-bearing train as they vanish underground. One station will blur by at speed as the wheels spin, the engines slowly and surely pour on the power. If he doesn't jump off, the glimpse of the underground lasts more than four miles, until they spring out again at the surface, roaring through the industrial hinterlands into the suburbs.

Where is he going, and how far? This might be the trap of immense stupidity, Lazar handing him a grenade with a bow on it and calling it a present. But then….they could've had him any time in Berlin, bumbling about like a lost collie puppy.

Or, on the other hand…..he's en route to the source of the whole thing. The place where the other, previous loads of children - for surely there have been more - ended up….with no one to rescue them.

Hours to dawn. It won't be for quite some time that the first glimmerings break, and by then, Berlin is long gone and the border with Poland breached at speeds suggestive this is no mere cheap line. Wherever it's headed, the string of cattle cars rattle and thunk with little respect for sound. Hauling open a door won't be that hard, and reveal nothing of great intrest: boxes, mostly bolted down within racks, contents chattering and jittering around to hint at mechanical parts. Sleep may be elusive, but at least it's dry. The next car up might be intended for passengers, but it's a near thing.

Bucky won't find anyone inspecting the cars immediately, not until they hit Lublin. Inspectors travel the length while overseen, Polish deferential to a fault, impassive faces. Whether they're going to peer too deeply into a car where hides the Winter Soldier is questionable, but the train crew without have apparently got their papers in order, because while flashlights carelessly strobe the sides, they don't enter…

And on it goes. On, on, all the way to the Rodina.

HE tries to doze, tries to rest. Ever more aware he's done something most likely irrevocably stupid on the word of one of his clones. But that internal sense of place is ratcheting up the tension, bit by bit, into gut-crawling fear. Buck's jumping feet first into the wolves' den, and he knows it.

Time crawls past. Lengthy shadows leave late and arrive early. Twenty-four full hours of rail travel glitter and sheen, bumping along through narrow gauges that cross the great breadbasket of the northern Ukraine where frost and snow already embrace the chilly northlands. Winds howl. Even for Bucky, the air is bitterly cold and clean, filled by the endless blue skies of the Motherland. Here are the birch forests and there are the shallow rivers, all of them flowing to the oxygen-smothered Black Sea. Once the Kievan Rus' formed a mighty power, and Tatars contended with the Golden Horde, Cossacks rode, and the fatal mistakes of the Crimean War stole British and Russian lives in equal measure.

Tumbling on and on, the only pauses are for water and occasionally replenishing stores. Then the train plunges on into the hinterlands, where the Communist rule falls under Moscow. Routes churn and twist, and they're soon enough roaring into a forgettable oblast, a place where Voronezh perches like a dark raven on the edge of the woods. The winding Don remains rather close, and beyond that, deep, grim forests that offer few hopes of a pleassant reception. Who has a cross-country train going to that? Obviously someone either important or institutionalized or both.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 18

He manages to steal food and water….the quality of the first being reminder enough of why anyone would want to defect. Winter is all but purring in comfort as they near what he insists is their real home. Then back to stashing himself in that hidden corner, waiting for their destination. At least he can reassure himself that no child is on this particular train.

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